By Tim Combs, president, sales and marketing, The Raymond Corp.
Earlier this month, we celebrated National Manufacturing Day.
Manufacturing has been an important part of our country’s economy for nearly three centuries. Now, although the work is still demanding, technology has shifted the way manufacturing companies operate.
Investment in technology
Rather than manual labor moving and positioning finished goods, integrated manufacturing equipment provides finished product ready for storage and shipment, with real-time data tracking where product should be stored in the warehouse and distributed to its next point of contact. And rather than laborers pushing handcarts loaded with product, lift trucks transport heavy products, with data-tracking devices keeping tabs all the while, ensuring that product is stored in the right location and sent to the correct dock.
The landscape is changing in our everyday manufacturing setting, and investment in technology is leading the way to a more efficient process. These improvements are a testament to how far our industry has advanced as a result of visionary and innovative manufacturing.
A recent Fast Company article discussed the study “Industry 4.0: How to Navigate a Changing Industrial Landscape.” The piece explained how the evolution of manufacturing in the United States, Germany, and Japan will increasingly rely on:
- In-factory sensors
- Increased use of analytics and data science
- In-factory use of augmented reality (such as Google Glass)
These advancements allow companies to take steps to make a difference in their operations, such as with smartglasses. Employees or associates can use products like these to guide them to better productivity and accuracy.
The report also estimates that only 40% to 50% of equipment in factories will have to be replaced over the next decade, as large multinationals work toward Industry 4.0, the new industrial revolution. This is a rapid improvement compared with the previous Industrial Revolution (known as industrial automation), which had an 80% to 90% rate of replacement.
Automation and telematics continue to be some of the biggest trends we see in the market. Skilled labor can be difficult to find in the right place at the right time, and making the investment in automation helps with that challenge in both manufacturing and facility management.
Looking toward the future
Over the years, the manufacturing scenery has changed, both in terms of the goods being manufactured and the way in which those products are built with the help of technology. With so much advancement in the last couple of decades, what can we expect in the coming years?
- Manufacturing currently supports an estimated 17.6 million jobs in the United States (about one in six private-sector jobs), according to National Association of Manufacturers.
- Skill sets in data and analytics will be in high demand for manufacturers in the next decade, according to a Fast Company article.
- Over the next 12 years, an additional 1.8 billion people will enter the global consuming class, and worldwide consumption could nearly double to $64 trillion, according to a report by McKinsey & Co.
- Consumers, still the driving force pushing manufacturing, will continue to demand more choices when considering a purchase. This increases the number of product variations, producing a growing database of information needing management to optimize inventory and distribution.
Manufacturing Day is a tip of the hat to how far the industry has advanced and to its future. In the coming years, we can expect to see further investments in technology and automation processes, and we look forward to seeing the outcome.